January 23, 2013

Policy Update

OMSSA has welcomed 2013 with open arms, anticipating a year of great change, opportunity and heavy lifting on the social policy front.

January 23, 2013

Policy Update

OMSSA has welcomed 2013 with open arms, anticipating a year of great change, opportunity and heavy lifting on the social policy front.

In recent months, OMSSA staff has been working with its members and the provincial government in a number of areas of key policy development including the child care funding model, providing ongoing technical advice in the development of the Community Homelessness Partnership Initiative (CHPI) as well as joining as a member the Provincial Municipal Housing Partnership Table.

OMSSA will see a continued role in the ongoing work the government is undertaking in housing and child care transformation.

With the release of the final report on the Commission on the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario (CRSAO), OMSSA and members have joined AMO in developing a municipal response and position to social assistance reform in Ontario. We expect to share this work with members shortly.

OMSSA will also be convening the Employment and Income Issues Network to develop further OMSSA feedback to the recommendations in the final report.

While the government has not established its position on social assistance reform in response to the CRSAO, some work has commenced on exploring the future of employment services. A number of OMSSA members were recently invited to participate in a multi sector consultation table to discuss some aspects of employment services reform. This work is currently underway and OMSSA will report back to members in the future on this work.

OMSSA anticipates the next steps in work on social assistance reform once a new government leader for the Liberals is determined later this week.

OMSSA was pleased that the government provided $42 million one-time transition funding to service managers to support the implementation of the CHPI program. The funding was an important acknowledgement of the need in Ontario’s communities as well as the importance of a well-planned

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News from Queen’s Park and Ontario

transition to new service delivery and funding realities. OMSSA advocacy has been recognized as key to the governments funding decision.

In the next few months OMSSA will be undertaking a number of initiatives that are aimed at strengthening our advocacy and policy development voice and influence. This includes establishing senior strategic policy tables for the children’s services, homelessness, and employment and income issues networks as well as the Service Manager Housing Network. These tables will give strategic action to key issues arising at the Network Tables. OMSSA staff is in the process of establishing membership at this time.

OMSSA’s efforts continue to be to strengthen our membership and our voice by building on your experience and expertise. In 2013 we can expect the value and importance of what you do continue to influence and shape social policy in Ontario for today and the future.

Petra Wolfbeiss

Director of Policy and Public Affairs, OMSSA

The Ministry of Education Releases Vision and Next Steps for Ontario’s Children and Families

Earlier today, The Minister of Education, Laurel Broten released its Ontario Early Years Policy Framework.

The framework lays out the governments next steps for children 0 to 6 and their families and its intentions on the role of key stakeholders in these efforts.

The framework includes four near term initiatives:

1. Full implementation of full day kindergarten by September 2014;

2. Moving forward with the next steps of modernization with a focus on legislative and regulatory reform;

3. Continued speech and language transformation; and

4. Moving forward on the development of the Best Start Child and Family Centres.

In conversations with Ministry of Education officials, OMSSA was pleased to learn that the role and expertise of CMSMs and DSSABs are acknowledged in the government’s priorities. It is anticipated that OMSSA will work with its Ministry partners as it continues to move forward on its priorities.

Further discussion and analysis on the governments Ontario Early Years Policy Framework will be provided to OMSSA members in the coming days.

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Progressive Conservatives Seek to Balance Interests in "Welfare to Work" White Paper

Progressive Conservative (PC) MPP, Toby Barrett consulted with Ontarians to inform the party’s recommendations on reforming Ontario’s social assistance program.

The resulting PC’s white paper on social assistance reform, one of several in their Paths to Prosperity series, supports and builds on a number of recommendations put forth by Francis Lankin and Munir Sheikh, the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario (CRSAO,) and Don Drummond's work in his commissioned report on the reform of public services.

Consistent with the key themes in these commissioned reports, the PCs agree that a system freed from regulatory and programmatic complexities is needed and that moving in this direction provides the opportunity for greater administrative efficiencies and improved client outcomes. To achieve this, the PCs commit to removing any government barriers and program barriers that stand in the way of social assistance recipients entering and sustaining employment.

OMSSA and its members generally support this assumption with the caveat that transformation on such scale must be well planned, measured and take place over time and in partnership with CMSMs and DSSABs.

Following is an overview of the key recommendations put forth in the PC’s white paper.

OMSSA analysis is provided throughout.

The full discussion paper and recommendations are available here.

Context For PC Welfare Reform :

Ongoing global and local economic challenges frame the context of the PC’s recommendations. Tackling public debt and demonstrating accountable spending of public dollars and focusing on Ontarians in need are key elements in the party’s discussion on social assistance reform. The pathway to achieving savings and improved accountability and outcomes are seen as being through eliminating bureaucratic waste and improved service delivery along with providing the right incentives to recipients to work and remain working.

Understanding that "choices are tough because tasks are challenging", the PC’s focus the provision of welfare on the elderly, sick and disabled. In part by looking to what is working today, they suggest that reform will be "encompassing and speedy" through seeking cost-effective measures to complex problems.

Service System Management and Accountability:

The PCs suggest welfare reform be built on the principles of: efficiency, cost-effectiveness, equity and accountability.

In an effort to achieve greater efficiency and outcomes the PCs promote the following key elements to social assistance reform:

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Integrating Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program into one program; and

 Service delivery provision by all sectors

Of key interest to OMSSA members, the PCs support the recommendations of Drummond and CRSAO to replace Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) with one program.

Moving to an integrated social assistance program makes sense and is supported by OMSSA and its members. The PCs also support the reduction of rules and regulations and moving to improved outcomes for clients (greater attachment to the labour market) and away from "policing clients". OMSSA and its members have long argued the focus should be to move from applying rules and working to support clients, where possible, in moving to employment.

Acknowledging the expertise of municipalities and DSSABs in the administration of social assistance, the PCs rightly recommend building on what is currently working. OMSSA was pleased to see that the risks and challenges of transformation are recognized and that the change process must include avoiding negative impacts on the municipal sector.

The white paper also contends that the lack of oversight in some aspects of administration has cost tax payers approximately half a billion dollars between 2002 and 2009. And, that the ongoing issues with ODSP medical reviews continue to be a concern.

The PCs strongly promote the reduction of bureaucracy through the elimination of managers and front line supervisors. And, to promote innovation and efficiencies, competition be introduced by opening the delivery of social assistance through contracts to non-profits, non-governmental agencies and charities.

Funding through social impact bonds is also introduced as an innovative and cost effective way of using the private and not for profit sector to fund and deliver social programs.

OMSSA continues to build the case for human services integration and the key role of service system management in the funding, administration and delivery of services. Service system managers are accountable to locally elected officials and the property tax payer. Service system management is built on local expertise and is responsive to local economies, labour markets and other realities such as housing, transportation and the cost of food. Where it makes sense, service system managers currently contract with various local agencies to provide a number of services to residents.

However, accountability to the tax payer remains with the municipality and DSSAB.

Social Impact Bonds present an opportunity to explore new approaches to the funding and delivery of programs. Pilot projects have been undertaken in various jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom and the United States. It is important to note, that the outcomes of these projects are pending and the medium and long term effectiveness and success of this approach is yet to be fully understood.

Exploring new approaches to service delivery and funding, at the very least must be undertaken as pilot projects. OMSSA agrees that innovation and creativity happens at the local level and we should build on what is working now. OMSSA members are leaders in this area.

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The recommendations in the PC white paper are not clear as to the governance, oversight and accountability processes to ensure efficient and effective outcomes in a new service delivery model. More information is required in terms of how all of these pieces and various players would fit together in an integrated program intended to provide greater efficiency and effectiveness. OMSSA strongly encourages ongoing municipal and DSSAB service system management.

Clients and Benefit Reform:

The PCs believe that social assistance reform must be such that people are better off. For the tax payer this means reduced costs and greater accountability and for the recipient, specifically those who can, this means getting and keeping a job. To support clients in greater attachment to the labour market the PCs recommend;

 Improved employment services support;

 Incentives to work;

 Supporting employers to hire people with disabilities; and

 Parameters on spending of benefits.

Supporting both the CRSAO and the Drummond report, the PCs recommend moving to improved employment supports through individualized Pathway to Employment Plans. In order to receive income support recipients must participate in the activities identified in their plans.

The PCs do not however comment on the broader employment services system or a recommended approach to the delivery of the many programs that currently exist within a number of provincial ministries and are delivered by various providers. They do however offer the need for the better integration of support systems from all three orders of government and the private sector to allow more people to leave social assistance. Specifics are not provided.

The PCs are also supportive of allowing those in receipt of social assistance and who are working to keep more of their earned income. On the other hand, those identified as having been in receipt of welfare for a "long time" will see a staged reduction in their benefits as an incentive to work. Details and amounts were not provided.

As a part of their broader policy discussions, the PCs are committed to economic recovery and job creation. It will be important that a balance be struck between the objective of gaining and maintaining employment and understanding local labour market realities. Specifically that those in receipt of welfare for longer periods not be adversely effected in the event jobs do not exist in the communities they live in.

Also consistent with CRSAO and Drummond, the PCs recommend greater support for people with disabilities to attain employment. This includes employment support through the Pathway to Employment Plans and offering employers tax incentives to invest in needed equipment and technology to support hiring people with disabilities. The PCs acknowledge the importance of training and education and call on colleges to prioritize funding to support students with disabilities.

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The PCs point to the ongoing implementation of the

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act,

and supporting the objectives of this legislation. It is important to note that provincial funding has not been provided as a support to implementing the many requirements of the Act.

Greater attachment to the labour market and improving educational attainment have long been recognized as opportunities to reducing reliance on social assistance.

Critical to the long term success of clients exiting social assistance is the quality of support and case management they receive While the PCs put forward the need to reduce the bureaucracy by eliminating middle management, they are quiet on this aspect of social assistance reform including how it relates to an integrated program. These aspects of case management and client outcomes must be understood in any new system as they are fundamental to client outcomes both in the short and long term. They are also important factors in the cost of administration and service delivery. This needs to be considered in any reorganization and the factors that go into service delivery such as competitive contracts that are focused on outcomes. Efficiency and effectiveness must be developed on long term projections rather than current assumptions.

The CRSAO provides a comprehensive approach to benefit reform that focuses on balancing client autonomy, market conditions and fairness against the working poor. The PCs recognize the challenges of the working poor but offer no specific recommendations on addressing these.

They remain committed to program integrity and the reduction of fraud.

This includes greater oversight on the sending of benefits. Recommendations include the provision of a benefit card that limit where funds can be spent and on what money can be spent on. The levels of benefits are not addressed.

OMSSA supports the need to balance interests in the funding and delivery of public programs. Since the introduction of OW and ODSP, service managers have gained a wealth of experience and expertise in the management of all aspects of social assistance. A number of the issues the PCs are addressing have long been of concern to service managers in their work.

To ensure the success of any potential and future approaches to social assistance reform the experience of OMSSA and its members is invaluable and will be critical in guiding any change to success.

Conclusion:

OMSSA, AMO and members have undertaken a great deal of good work through the Provincial Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review (PMFSDR) on social policy reform related to funding and service delivery.

OMSSA supports the need for ongoing dialogue on social assistance reform and that the important strides made under the PMFSDR related to cost-sharing and service delivery reform continue as the marker for change.

OMSSA looks forward to the opportunity to explore the discussion paper with the Progressive Conservative Party.

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News from Ottawa and across Canada

Resource Corner

Links to current research and other resources to support OMSSA members

2012-2013 Deficit Projection Improves by $3 Billion

The province’s 2012-13 deficit is projected to be $11.9 billion. This is an improvement from the $14.8 billion that was projected in the 2012 Ontario Budget.

The updated projection is based on one-time savings of $1.1 billion from the elimination of banked sick days for teachers. It also includes increased revenues in 2012-13 mostly due to a one-time boost to corporate tax revenues of $1.1 billion, largely related to tax assessments for years prior to 2011.

The full release from the Government of Ontario is available here.

New Premier of Ontario elected this weekend

The Ontario Liberal party will elect a new leader this weekend in Toronto.

In recent days, there has been some attention on the poverty reduction platforms of each of the candidates who are up for election. The 25 in 5 Network for Poverty Reduction issued a news release earlier this week, as well as an info-graphic analyzing the candidates’ platforms and previous comments focusing on poverty reduction.

The issue also received some traction in an article in the Toronto Star.

Post-secondary enrolments and graduation increase in 2011

The numbers of post-secondary enrolment and graduates in 2011 have been released from Statistics Canada.

Overall the highlights include:

 Just over 1,955,300 students were enrolled in Canadian public postsecondary institutions during the academic year 2010/2011, a 2.7% increase from the previous year.

 Women accounted for 56.5% of the national enrolment total compared with 43.5% for men. This ratio has remained constant over the past decade.

 With respect to graduates, nearly 447,700 students received a certificate, diploma or degree from a public postsecondary institution in 2010, up 4.1%.

The full Statistics Canada release is available here.

SiG (Social Innovation Generation) Webinar Series on Social Innovation

 

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SiG, a partnership of four Canadian institutions and sites: the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, MaRS Discovery District, the University of Waterloo and SiG West, has released a webinar series on Social Innovation.

Some of the presentations include:

 Social Innovation and Reslience

 Managing Social Innovation

 Social Innovation through Community-University Partnerships

The webinar series is available here.

John Stapleton – a blog posting on inequality

John Stapleton recently contributed a blog posting to the Broadbent Institute that raises some interesting points about reducing inequality. The posting examines social assistance and income inequality.

The full posting is available here.